First year organizing and operating a summer feeding program, and the Bartow County School System receives top honors from the United States Department of Agriculture!

This year, 84 school systems and School Food Authorities qualified for either a gold, silver, or bronze Turnip the Beet 2021 Award. Of those, a dozen from Georgia earned awards, and the BCSS was one of only two systems in the state to earn the highest level award.

The Turnip the Beet Award recognizes outstanding Summer Meal Program sponsors who work hard to offer high-quality meals that are appetizing, appealing, and nutritious.

“I'm so excited to see our staff's hard work being recognized, and I'm proud to be a part of such a wonderful team that appreciates the importance of meeting student needs for ultimate student success,” said BCSS School Nutrition Services Director Betsy Roam. Last year was our first year of organizing a summer feeding program. We attacked this new challenge with customer service being our top priority. We also focused on utilizing fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables every day, providing convenient pick-up locations, and coordinating food service for all our summer athletic and academic programs.”

To be considered for the award, the USDA required Bartow County Schools to complete an application and demonstrate that its team exceeded program requirements to serve high-quality meals to children during the summer months.

According to the USDA, “Nominations must clearly illustrate how the meals are appetizing, appealing, and nutritious. The Nomination Form includes short-answer questions and menu criteria based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The criteria include serving local foods, a variety of vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and low-fat and fat-free milk.”

“Our meals were planned around student preference,” added Roam. “During the school year, we analyze data monthly to see what students are choosing. We've found that offering the most popular entrees increases our exposure with our customers. Meaning, if we can get them to pick up a meal, we are presented with the opportunity to expose our students to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

In addition to nutritious meals at no cost, many summer sites in Bartow County offered food and wellness-related activities. Gardening and nutrition lessons were incorporated into ESOL classes and the local recreation department offered similar activities as well.